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tv   Betsy De Vos Commencement Address at Bethune- Cookman  CSPAN  May 12, 2017 10:10am-10:31am EDT

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perhaps support a special prosecutor or independent prosecutor or if they are just saying -- we are concerned and move along. the senate committee is trying to get back on track but they have had some rocky couple of weeks. host: josh mey >> a longer series of tweets on a range of issues this morning, president trump to reading, "when james clapper himself and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witchhunt says there is no collusion, when does it end." next, secretary betsy devos' commencement address at the thin cookman university. une-cookman university, a historically black women's college. some graduates trend of acts and
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boo -- turned their backs and bo oed. secretary devos: dr. jackson, board of trustees. thank you so very, very much for this great honor and privilege. [crowd booing] secretary devos: i'm honored to become a wildcat. and it's a real honor and privilege to be with you as we celebrate the bethune-cookman university class of 2017. congratulations to all of you. in addition to the graduates, there are so many people deserving of special recognition today. parents, i'd like to ask all the moms who are here celebrating their graduates to stand right now and be recognized. moms, please stand up. and all the dads, please stand up.
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grandparents, family members, friends of graduates, thank you for your effort in getting them to this point. [crowd booing] secretary devos: first lady jackson, chairman, members of the board, and members of the administrative staff and faculty, and the entire bethune-cookman community, thank you for the important role you play in making today possible for all these students. mayor henry, thank you for those encouraging words. and you and other state and local officials for being here today. i'm grateful for the opportunity to speak with you. and particularly with those who have disagreed with the invitation for me to be here. [crowd booing]
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secretary devos: one of the hallmarks of higher education and of democracy is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree. >> if this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you. [crowd noise] choose which way you want to go. [crowd noise] [crowd cheering]
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graduates to be, would you please be seated. [crowd noise] graduates, would you please be seated. [crowd noise] secretary devos: as i said, i'm very grateful for the opportunity to be with you today. [crowd jeering] secretary devos: while we will undoubtedly disagree at times, i hope we can do so respectfully. let's choose to hear one another
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out. i want to reaffirm this administration's commitment to and support for hbcu's and the students they serve. [crowd jeering] secretary devos: please know this, we support you and we will continue to support you. [applause] secretary devos: that is one reason, one reason why we support restoring year-round pell grants. this common-sense solution will enable more students to further their education without taking on additional debt. i am at the table fighting on your behalf and on behalf of all students across the nation. i also want to acknowledge that we all arrive here today with different life experiences and different perspectives.
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i view that not as a negative, but as a gift. any time we meet someone new, we have two options. we can focus on differences that might divide us or we can choose to listen, to be receptive, and to learn from others' experiences and perspectives. [crowd noise] secretary devos: in my life i have endeavored to do the latter. and as you leave this arena today, i hope you too will choose this posture as you set out on this new and exciting stage of your life's adventure. i am here to celebrate you and all of your achievements. we are all here to applaud your perseverance and to encourage each of you to keep reaching -- working to reach your full potential. [crowd noise] secretary devos: and i'm here in the most tangible way i know
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how, to demonstrate that i and the entire administration are fully committed to your success and to the success of every student across this great country. [applause] [crowd jeering] secretary devos: that commitment to success is one i know i share with your president, dr. edison jackson. dr. jackson has long focused on creating opportunities for students and is an authentic advocate for life-long learning. each of you who have had the occasion to interact with or work alongside dr. jackson knows he has a profound, deep-seeded belief and faith and an abiding belief in the transformational power of character, moral courage, and purpose. dr. jackson, thank you for your daily work to secure and make available a life-changing education for the students you serve.
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[applause] secretary devos: your career is a personal inspiration to me. and the embodiment of bcu's motto -- enter to learn, depart to serve. graduates, you have heeded the first charge in that motto. and today you stand at the interval preceding the second. i challenge you to leave this arena faithful to completing this mission. the words are simple, yet powerful. depart to serve. it is good and right to pause today, to celebrate your individual successes. but after that reflection, i am confident you will find service more rewarding than anything else. in serving, you will always reap more than you sow. the degree conferred on you today is the culmination of time, energy, and effort
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invested and knowledge, experiences, and skills gained. [crowd noise] secretary devos: however, the sum of your education here involves far more than sleepless nights spent cramming for a big exam, hours invested putting the finishing touches on papers, and time devoted to clubs, organizations, and causes. the whole of your time at bethune-cookman university, your experiences, your relationships, and your hard work, has laid a foundation for you to appreciate your responsibilities to your peers, your community, your country, and the world. today you transition from student to graduate. what may have seemed an eternity away the moment you walked onto campus is now standing before you. you'll leave this place the leaders who will transform the world. the tomorrow for which you've
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worked so hard to prepare has arrived and it's yours to shape. your actions will determine the type of world you create, enjoy, and leave to your children and grandchildren. i posit that a fundamental component in that pursuit, to shape your world, can be found in personal service. you may choose to give back by mentoring or volunteering, you may pour your life into creating equal opportunities for all, pursuing justice, tackling the toughest medical challenges, educating the rising generation, donning our nation's uniform to protect and defend our freedom, or making a discovery on the cutting edge of science, technology, or engineering. i know that bcu has prepared each of you well for these tasks. the human heart is hard wired for service. and it's imbedded in the dna of this institution.
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[crowd noise] secretary devos: no doubt you know dr. mary mcleod bethune's amazing story very well. but let me share some of it for those beyond this hall who don't. [crowd noise] secretary devos: she was a visionary, a leader i admire and respect, and someone about whom all americans should know. as one of 17 children born to parents who knew firsthand the horrors and injustice of slavery, dr. bethune was the only member of her family to be educated in a formal school setting. for her, education was a gift and an incredible privilege. [crowd jeering] secretary devos: she believed it was her sacred duty to use her education to uplift others. so in 1904, with burning determination in her soul and a meager $1.50 in her pocket, dr. bethune built a school from the ground up. over the course of her
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incredible 79-year life span, she fought for one singular and invaluable goal, to provide african-american children access to a quality education, access they were otherwise unjustly denied. her commitment to service is what has brought us together today. this inspired daughter of slaves refused to accept repulsive and systemic racism. she moved mountains, changing the lives and futures of countless students and families across generations. just think about the impact of dr. bethune's selfless, singular focus. then consider the influence that you as a graduate could have on the lives of others. both now and into the future. all that is required for world-shaking change is your conscious and courageous decision to serve. your path here was shaped by
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others. educators, parents, family members, neighbors, and friends. never forget that. through serving others, you can extend that legacy. later today, i will have the honor of visiting dr. bethune's home and paying my respects at her gravesite. [crowd jeering] secretary devos: i am moved by words in her last will and testament. where dr. bethune describes what she hoped her legacy would be. the beautifully written testament by the love, hope, and a thirst for education as the ideals she wanted people to embrace in her memory. she concluded with a section titled "a responsibility to our young people," and made clear her unshakable belief that the world's fate belonged to the youth she dedicated her entire life to serving.
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in it she wrote, "our children must never lose their zeal for building a better world. they must not be discouraged from aspiring toward greatness, for they are to be the leaders of tomorrow. nor must they forget that the masses of our people are still underprivileged, ill-housed, impoverished, and victimized by discrimination. we have a powerful potential in our youth and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends." i note three core themes in her words. first, aim high. aspire to greatness. dr. bethune believed without wavering that your potential is limitless. second, take responsibility for your families and communities and never tolerate inequality or injustice. [crowd jeering] secretary devos: third, proceed with courage to change old ideas that hold others back.
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these are charges and encouragements i echo to each of you today. dr. bethune believed students, you, had an unlimited potential to affect positive change and with good reason. she'd done it herself. as you leave, each of you will be called to embody courage in different ways and to rise to different challenges. the way you answer those calls will determine not just the future of you and your homes, but of your communities, this great nation, and your world. your university serves as a reminder that are every student without exception deserves a high-quality education. some of you graduates are the first in your families to earn a college degree. and some of you have overcome incredible personal hardships to reach this day. de andrea jamal was the victim
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of an accidental shooting after his freshman year. [crowd noise] secretary devos: his doctor told him he would never walk again. but deandre had different plans. not only did he resume his studies, he poured himself into his rehabilitation and got back on his feet. today deandre stands tall among you as a candidate to receive his degree and he's already taking the next steps to pursue an mba. [cheers and applause] secretary devos: another never thought about going to college before landing at bcu as a nontraditional student. with help from the palm beach urban league, she found her passion for helping others through radio and television. this discovery fueled her confidence and her commitment to her studies, as her ambitions soared. kaneta became involved with 14
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organizations and numerous other campus activities and today is an accomplished mass communications graduate. [applause] secretary devos: jalil is graduating today with a bachelor of arts in liberal studies, with a concentration in marketing. jalil was born to a single mother who struggled with drug addiction. at a very young age, he entered the foster care system, where he was subjected to a never-ending cycle of neglect and abuse. despite the extraordinary challenges he faced throughout his upbringing, he excelled at his studies at bcu and went on to become mr. bcu, mr. sophomore, and he even developed a motivational program called from blocks to books, dedicated to inspiring and empowering young people. [applause] he writes ands:
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performs music as well. after graduation, he is going to pursue his dream of starting a record label. each of these students' stories is one of courage. these stories speak to how bcu rises to meet the unique needs of every student it serves. we should aspire to make all of america's educational institutions mirror that model. a singular focus on the individual needs of students. our nation has made remarkable progress since dr. bethune founded this university. but addressing inequities in our education system remains a very real challenge. empowering students with the opportunity to pursue the best possible education has been my focus for the past three decades. america is simply too great a country to deny any child this equal opportunity. your courage will be needed to confront this challenge as you
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raise families, pursue careers, and lead in communities across our nation. i hope each of us will leave here today challenged to ensure no child is denied the benefits of a quality education. many of you have already shown courage in this regard by pursuing teaching as a vocation. i want to take a moment to highlight and honor each of who you are graduating from the college of education. [applause] secretary devos: not coincidentally, this is national teacher appreciation week. i hope each of you will take a moment to reach out and thank a teacher who was impactful in your life. many of them no doubt here with us today. i expect many of you are here in part because somewhere along the line a teacher went out of his or her way to make sure you succeeded. please join me now in personally
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thanking and applauding each of you who have served, serve, or will serve as an educator. [applause] secretary devos: education broadens our horizons and enables us to confront realities we never before anticipated. we should welcome these opportunities with open arms. we should embrace the chance to grow and to serve. we should pursue these opportunities with humility, with perseverance, and with grace. that is my final challenge to you. to approach the unanticipated, the unexpected, the unforeseen with grace. spend just a few minutes watching your favorite cable news channel and you'll experience the startling polarization happening across -- >> you can

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